Whip it Good! – Carnaval Vegano
This year for my birthday, as a disgruntled single female – I was looking to get away from cold, dreary DC and get a tan. But, I wanted to get away on a budget. I realized that while everyone in DC was celebrating Valentines Day, the rest of the southern hemisphere was preparing to celebrate Mardi Gras or Carnaval de diablos or santos or whatever -point is that everyone – way down under, were preparing to be scandalous!
I spent a little time contemplating which country to travel to cheaply to celebrate carnival without the inflated cost of flying & staying in hotels in popular locations like Brazil, New Orleans and/or Bolivia? After Kayak-ing for a while, I got the answer, Dominican Republic. I found a round-trip flight for $275 on Spirit Airlines to Santo Domingo. I was set for another saucy adventure, except this time I had a partner in crime, Aneesa.
Once we landed in the DR, we found fabulous lodging (spontaneously as our other lodging fell through) at the 16th century restored convent, El Beaterio. The hotel had with a calming ambiance, also known marked a “world heritage site” by UNESCO, it had a 1950′s Dominican charm that could be used as a movie set! For $100 bucks a night split two ways meant $50 each, we got lodging that included a healthy breakfast! I was ecstatic…a little sick with a cold that I caught on the way to the Dominican Republic, but nothing that a little whisky couldn’t disguise as a sexy throaty purr every time I giggled gleefully.
I had looked up in advance where the best and wildest carnival celebration was going to be held, and I found La Vega was the place to be! On its well organized Spanish website it listed concerts, kings and queens of past celebrations AND most importantly pictures of costumes that involved a lot of glitter, thongs, elaborate make-up, feathers and whips? Oooooo, my kinda party!
A sliver of fear went down my spine when I read some men have been known to carry bull whips, with inflated animal bladders attached at the end of the whip filled with blood. Traditionally, Carnaval Vegano is known as the carnival of “diablos cojuelos,” (translated it means mischievous devils) who carry whips aka “vejigazos,” made with dried cow/pig bladders. New rules implemented don’t allow the use of blood anymore in the inflated bladders, but I saw many, many, many vejigas being confiscated throwing rules out the window. Also, the diablos are allowed to only whip people walking in the streets, so generally the sidewalk can be a safe spot to stand, but if you’re on the street get ready for a sore bum!
Another rumor is that the men (whether married, single or 7 seven years old) whip women if they find them attractive. While I was there, I realized the more the beer goggles came on, the more the ‘attractive’ standard came spiraling down. The dembow reggae music makes it more of a chaotic party that leads to whips being flung in the air with people grinding in the streets.
I went to La Vega with my friend Aneesa, and I got whipped a couple of times. I’m presuming because it was the beginning of the carnival, no one was drunk enough to swing hard, so it didn’t hurt much. I also got whipped by a sorry little 7 yr old that didn’t appreciate the whip I had bought with me. In fact, as I was carrying a whip, I think some of the men kept their distance. Good thing too! Because, I had to take a 3 hour bus ride to Santo Domingo at the end of the night- and I didn’t want to ride with a bruised bum.
The highlight of the party was when we found “VIP” tickets to sit in roped off viewing stands lined in the front of the street where the parade of costumes and floats were passing by for “200″ RD’s roughly around 7 bucks. It was the seating section for the Ministry of Culture, and we got to view all the costumes up close when they walked past the stands. It also prevented us from being pushed and shoved in the street, but the stands did become over crowded eventually. Aneesa noticed that some of the men were walking by taking random pictures of us, hopefully not confusing us for being celebrities? We of course retaliated by taking pictures of them, well actually taking pictures of the hot morinitos….that resulted in both of our camera’s dying before the party really took off.
Check out these pictures of costumes and then some… from the carnival!